There were plenty of willing riders, but only a handful of 100 mile horses, and only a handful of 100 mile rides. They needed horses, and they needed sub 13:20 ride completions. They were going to have go outside the country for both the horses, and the rides. This would require a coordinated effort, and would require funding. Under the auspices of the Malaysia National Sports Institute a committee was formed, a project was developed, and a goal of qualifying a field of Malaysian riders for the 2008 WEC was set. Raja Mahmood Raja Hussein, a member of the Malaysia National Federation, and chair of the Endurance discipline spearheaded the effort under the direction of Dato Dr. Ramlan Abdul Aziz. Also part of the team were Dr. Bashir Ahmad (project veterinarian) and Mohamad Din Mat (project manager). This team would eventually send riders to Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, USA, UAE and Australia, multiple times, to lease/purchase horses, and hopefully obtain 2 successful completions. Trip by trip, month by month, mile by mile... by June there were five riders that had qualified including His Majesty, Tuanku Mizan. Horses were purchased and imported, several more rides were scheduled in Malaysia for local horses and horses that had been imported earlier, and by the August 21 deadline, 16 riders had fully qualified for the WEC! This is a fairly amazing accomplishment and I'm sure many of the adventures these travelers encountered will be told for years to come.
Malaysia has been on a very steep learning curve during the past several years. I doubt if there are many riders that have more than 1000 miles of experience, and in this sport, experience is essential! The travels that they made this summer exposed them to many different venues, and riders, and styles and every place they went they learned something. I was particularly impressed with Tuanku Mizan and the Royal Terengganu Endurance Stable. They made several trips to Dubai and Abu Dhabi during the 'quest for qualification', and were able to watch the UAE stables in action - fast efficient crewing, intense competition, HRH's, GPS, state of the art equipment. They watched and learned and brought a lot of what the observed back home with them. I rode with the RTES in Melaka this past spring and was amazed at their efficiency. I have also been impressed, and moved, by Tuanku's concern for the horse. He is a good rider, and a compassionate horseman. His concern for and sensitivity to the horse is obvious and I have seen him pull out of events of his own accord, if the horse was not doing well. His ego and ambition are secondary to his concern for the horse. He has my utmost respect, and I think it is qualities such as this that make him such a loved and revered King.
I truly wish Malaysia had completed more riders at the WEC. With only 2 out of 12 finishing there was a lot of disappointment. I felt like I knew every rider, they were my friends and I wished them well. And I was particularly hoping that Tuanku Mizan would finish. He finally opted to ride Ibrahim instead of Pharoah the Appaloosa which was having some back soreness. Ibrahim was the horse that he qualified with in UAE, a horse of Shk Mohamed al Maktoum's stable managed by Jauma Punti. A very good horse, fully capable of a solid completion. But for whatever reason the horse did not have a good day, they retired him at gate 5 - low gut sounds, and not eating well.
A tremendous effort on everybody's part, and plenty of reason to celebrate considering the massive scope of the event. And they are already planning for Kentucky, 2010! Now they have more horses, more riders, more experience and that super drive to succeed that comes with an 'almost did it' experience. Pick yourself back up and try again.